In a report titled When Every Minute Counts: Maritime Search and Rescue, released Nov. 29 by the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the Committee recommends more support for agencies like RCMSAR.
Acknowledging that SAR individuals and teams are the “best of the best,” the Committee thanked SAR personnel for their courage and dedication to the search and rescue cause in Canada before providing 17 recommendations aimed toward addressing gaps in coverage, capacity, prevention and governance.
Although gaps in coverage and capacity were identified, the committee recognized that maritime SAR in Canada is largely effective. However, the report discusses in greater detail how improvements can be made to help increase the likelihood of mission success, reduction of risk to SAR personnel and increased capacity for remote community response.
Included in the 17 recommendations is a call to make the Coast Guard “a separate statutory agency reporting to the Minister of Transport,” much like it operated before 1995, and that Transport Canada shift responsibility, and funding, for recreational boating safety to the Coast Guard.
While each recommendation may bring about opportunity for growth and change, a number of which have the potential to impact positively RCMSAR crews, vessels and operations, particularly with regards to funding.
“The report accurately reflects many of the current challenges in the maritime search and rescue environment and recognizes the need to adequately resource capabilities across all relevant organizations as we work together toward a common purpose of saving lives,” said Pat Quealey, RCMSAR chief executive officer, and one of the people who made presentations during the committee’s hearings.
One recommendation that could have significant impact on all 33 RCMSAR stations includes a call for an increase in the roughly $5.5 million auxiliary program direct funding to keep up with rising operational and training costs.
In the words of Senator Fabian Manning, RCMSAR is a key contributor to marine safety on the West Coast and warrants additional support: “The $1.3 million in federal funding [RCMSAR] receives is a bargain considering the value of the service it provides.”
“We are glad that the report included two of our key recommendations to adequately fund capital acquisition, vessels and equipment, as well as appropriately reimburse our operational and training readiness expenses” said Quealey.
“At present the federal government provides no funding for the purchase nor long term maintenance of our dedicated response vessels that keep our rescuers and those whom we save, safe at sea.”
The committee has also recommended the creation of a Maritime Search and Rescue Fund to “support the purchase of equipment and services needed by regional Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary organizations” and that the Coast Guard “assist regional Canadian Coast Guard auxiliary organizations to diversify their funding sources.”
“We look forward to working with our federal colleagues to bring these recommendations to life, said Quealey. “RCMSAR is proud to partner with the Canadian Coast Guard and the many agencies that work together to keep our communities safe.”